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Climate

How Worried Should We Be About Hail?

On the question insurers are asking, UAW’s Mercedes vote, and childhood asthma

How Worried Should We Be About Hail?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Flooding killed nearly 100 people in Afghanistan over the weekend • Streets turned into rivers in southern Germany after heavy rain • It’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Delhi today, and the rest of the week will be hotter.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Hail damage is making insurers nervous

Hail damage accounted for between 50% and 80% of the $64 billion in insured storm costs worldwide last year, according to international reinsurance firm Swiss Re. As storms become more frequent and more severe due to climate change, insurers are beginning to factor hail into their risk assessments on policies, Bloombergreported. Such a move could result in higher rates for policyholders. Other customers could lose insurance altogether. Some insurers are “nervous to touch big solar farms” because of the incredible damage hail can do to solar panels. One insurer has started testing the durability of various panels by pummeling them with “industrially produced hail” and seeing how well they hold up.

2. Mercedes workers in Alabama reject unionization push

Mercedes-Benz workers at a plant in Alabama voted last week against joining the United Auto Workers union. Just 2,045 workers out of about 5,000 voted in favor of unionizing, marking what Reuterscalled a “stinging loss” for the UAW, which has been pushing hard to expand membership across southern states after its contract deals with the Big Three in 2023. UAW also has its eyes on Tesla as a target for unionization. Last month the UAW found victory at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, where 73% of workers voted to unionize. But the results in Alabama are “a big setback,” explained NPR. Mercedes ran an aggressive anti-union campaign to convince workers to vote no, and Alabama politicians “framed the union vote as a threat to the state’s economic success.”

3. Study: Heat waves are triggering asthma attacks in kids

A new study suggests extreme heat is leading to more hospital visits for children who have asthma. The researchers had access to hospital admission data for young asthma patients within the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals. They looked at whether the children who were admitted lived in an area that was experiencing a heat wave when they got sick, and found that “daytime heat waves were significantly associated with 19% higher odds of children’s asthma hospital visits, and longer duration of heat waves doubled the odds of hospital visits.” More than 4.5 million children have the lung condition in the U.S.

4. Public charging infrastructure isn’t keeping pace with EV growth

A report from The Washington Post confirms what many drivers of electric vehicles probably already know: Public charging infrastructure in the U.S. isn’t growing fast enough. For every public charging point in the country, there are more than 20 EVs. Compare that to 2016, when there were seven EVs for each charging point, and it becomes clear charger installations aren’t matching growing demand. “As Americans purchase more and more EVs, public chargers will be essential to support long road trips, help apartment-dwellers go electric and alleviate overnight pressure on electricity grids,” the Post reported. President Biden has a goal of installing half a million charging stations by 2030 and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $5 billion for states to kickstart that effort, but as of March, only seven stations had been built in four states as a result of the program.

5. First Solar becomes world’s most valuable solar company

First Solar recently became the world’s most valuable solar company, Bloombergreported. This is the first time in six years a U.S. firm has claimed the position over Chinese rivals. Stock gains on Friday helped the company overtake Sungrow Power Supply, which saw its shares fall at the same time. First Solar is the biggest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels. While its valuation is up, and U.S. solar firms will get a boost from higher tariffs on Chinese clean tech goods, “by most other metrics, including the vital one of being able to produce enough clean energy to fight climate change, First Solar still has a way to go to catch up with its Chinese counterparts,” Bloomberg said.

THE KICKER

“The chances of politicians acting swiftly are probably better than they have been in the past. Not because of new scientific findings, but because solar, wind, and batteries have become so cheap so fast that the amount of pain involved in the transition to clean energy is far less than it would have been a decade ago. We could actually do this.”Bill McKibben on remaining optimistic, even as the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius seems further out of reach.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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A nuclear power plant.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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THE TOP FIVE

1. Lengthy heat wave threatens nearly 80 million Americans

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The New York-based startup aims to create a market for clean energy tax credits.

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